In case you haven’t heard, Facebook rolled out a whole mess of changes to their platform at their annual f8 developers conference. As a recap, here’s what they added or changed so far:
Facebook Changes at f8 Conference in 2011
- Increased the character limits on status updates from 500 to 5,000
- Added a floating top navigation bar
- Gave users the ability to edit the left hand navigation menu
- Hid the poke button
- Streamlined the Birthday notifications feature
- Removed the ability for users to add custom messages to friend requests
- And don’t forget friend lists, introduced last week
The biggest update to the platform, however, is without a doubt the redesigned newsfeed section. With this update, Facebook has further defined and developed their relevancy algorithm. Now, the default newsfeed page has been redesigned to include a split stacked single column feed instead of two single column tabs.
The first, and primary section is for top stories, a contextually optimized feed which contains the “top” stories that were posted since the last time you logged into Facebook. These top stories are selected using Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which can now be more easily refined thanks to the addition of a top story toggle button on the upper left corner of top posts.
The second column is for recent stories, and is shoved at the bottom of your feed once Facebook has no more top stories to show you. This is for all the leftover content that Facebook doesn’t think is quite so important.
To the right of your page, you’ll see the “real-time ticker” which is essentially your firehose of all the activity from your friends.
What do these changes mean for brands?
More then you’d think.
While it’s still to early to draw a concrete conclusion, my hunch is that these changes to the newsfeed will further reduce the number of people who are exposed to your brand’s content. The emphasis on contextual and relevancy filters will ultimately lead to users being exposed to less newsfeed content, not more. Considering that most brands were already only reaching 3%-7.5% of their fans, this is likely to get ugly.
What can brands do to counteract these changes?
Rich media content, like photos and video (which EdgeRank naturally boosts) just got much more important. Especially when you take into account Facebook’s other minor change – an increase in the size of photos in the newsfeed – this is a great way to catch a users attention within the feed and get them to engage.
Open-ended “community building” updates should be used more frequently. These types of updates encourage high levels of engagement with users, which will be important to maintain in order to secure your brands place within a users top stores section.
Don’t panic. As with every major Facebook update, you’ll have to make some changes to your strategy. It will take marketers some time to catch up with these changes. But they will, and the savvy brands will ultimately become stronger and better at generating engagement on Facebook.